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Documents: Sign target of complaint

This sign in the Village Green Shopping Center off Dawson Road, not an American Flag, was the object of a complaint recently filed against Tom Gieryic, the owner of Gieryic’s Dawson Road Automotive Repair.

This sign in the Village Green Shopping Center off Dawson Road, not an American Flag, was the object of a complaint recently filed against Tom Gieryic, the owner of Gieryic’s Dawson Road Automotive Repair.

ALBANY — Documents obtained by The Albany Herald Thursday show that the complaint that sparked a firestorm of controversy after a warning was given to a local businessowner who had put an American flag in a city right-of-way, was called in to report a dilapidated sign nearby.

Tom Gieryic, the owner of Gieryic’s Dawson Road Automotive Repair, was originally given a citation March 2 by an Albany Code Enforcement officer after she found Gieryic had placed an American Flag in the city-owned right-of-way in front of his business in violation of state encroachment laws.

The citation was later reduced to a warning.

City officials responded Thursday to a request made under Georgia’s Open Record’s Act for the complaint that led to the warning.

Those documents show that the complainant reported an “illegal portable sign” at 2401 Dawson Road — which is the Village Green Shopping Center, a parcel and address that includes Gieryic’s Service Station.

The complainant also snapped a photo of the sign in question to accompany the complaint in the city’s 3-1-1 system — a sign that looks nothing like Old Glory.

Instead the sign is one that is large, white and blighted; missing letters while harkening people to Saturday’s Mardis Gras festival.

But because the photo didn’t accompany the case information sent to Code Enforcement Officer Ruth Lewis when she was dispatched to the scene, she arrived at the scene and immediately saw the flag in the right-of-way and thought it was what prompted the call, city officials say.

Gieryic, who told the Albany Planning Commission that he’s received “hundreds of phone calls” since a story about the incident ran in Tuesday’s Albany Herald, said he thinks of the American Flag as a symbol and not a sign that is governed by the ordinance.

“I think of it as a symbol of our nation, not as some sign that is regulated, and if it’s not a sign then it can’t fit into the sign ordinance,” Gieryic told the commission.

As discussion by the commission continued on the matter, City Attorney Nathan Davis said Gieryic’s issue is less about the sign ordinance and more about state encroachment laws on city-owned property.

“It’s an issue of encroachment,” Davis said. “It’s not that people can’t have a flag. It’s that people can’t have a flag, or anything else, in the city right-of-way.”

O.C.G.A 32-6-51 states: “It shall be unlawful for any person to erect, place, or maintain in a place or position visible from any public road any unauthorized sign, signal, device, or other structure which ... Because of its nature, construction, or operation, constitutes a dangerous distraction to or interferes with the vision of drivers of motor vehicles.”

There is no special provision for flags in the Georgia code.

Davis said the commission could regulate the number of flagpoles a business owner could erect but couldn’t go so far as to say which or what type of flags could be flown.

Lisa Cox, an Albany resident who said she didn’t know Gieryic but who felt passionately about his situation, told the Planning Commission that, contrary to Davis’ position, the flag should be exempt from any regulations.

“If there is going to be any kind of amendment or privilege, it should be for the flag,” Cox said. “It encompasses us all and represents us all.”

Comments

Abytaxpayer 2 years, 5 months ago

Why does Albany’s Anti-Business Sign Ordinance only apply to Local businesses?

Mr. John House opened his Campaign Headquarters on Slappey and lined the two streets next to his headquarters with as many signs (approximately 30 plus) as he could place in the City “Right of Way”. So Albany does not allow the American Flag but they look the other way so Politicians can clutter the streets with their signs. In case you missed it walb caught it on video; http://www.walb.com/Category/195954/video-landing-page?clipId=6824725&autostart=true

"The complainant also snapped a photo" That sounds just like KADB's Judy she loves to ride around taking photos. Smart for JD not to identify "The Complainant"

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Abytaxpayer 2 years, 5 months ago

And Why is Code Enforcement Officer Ruth Lewis responding to complaints for a “illegal portable sign” and she can’t even tell the difference between a BIG Sign and an American Flag? O yes forgot Albany leaders hate the Flag because they think it is some kind of secret advertising media that business owners use to attract people to their business. Those darn business folks can’t be Patriotic they are just doing secret advertising and we hate advertising.

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dingleberry 2 years, 5 months ago

I think House's signs were out from 3:30 to 6:30 and all then taken up. Really, is this a big problem to complain about? I certainly don't support the city on the flag issue but isn't this post a rather poor example of the city being permissive? Now if the signs had remained, you would have a point--but not in this case.

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Margie 2 years, 5 months ago

I just wonder does the city ordinance include oak trees, branches and limbs hanging over into streets, making it difficult for cars to see both directions when at a stop sign trying to cross a highway of make a turn. In many sections of town, drivers have tp pull up beyond these large limbs to be certain that traffic is clear both ways. Now, that is more dangerous thnt the American Flag, which is usually busy moving in the wind. What's next?

O.C.G.A 32-6-51 states: “It shall be unlawful for any person to erect, place, or maintain in a place or position visible from any public road any unauthorized sign, signal, device, or other structure which ... Because of its nature, construction, or operation, constitutes a dangerous distraction to or interferes with the vision of drivers of motor vehicles

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KaosinAlbany 2 years, 5 months ago

I have noticed the same problem yet the city doesn't seem to care.

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LuLu 2 years, 5 months ago

Well number one, there is obvious incompetence and/or miscommunication between the 311 system and the code enforcement people if the SUBJECT of the complaint didn't even make it into the enforcer's hands. She was sent on a wild goose chase! And number two, judging by the picture, which is what Ruth Lewis SHOULD have been looking at, the sign doesn't look dilapidated or blighted to me, and I don't see any missing letters, unless you count where they used "c" instead of "see". I do see an extra "k" and "w" off to the side for some reason, but it doesn't look "dilapidated" The electricity even works on it! And it clearly says "Party Plus" across the top, which in no way resembles "Gieryics"! Some people just have NOTHING going on in their lives and have to make up crap. Get a life whoever you are!

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LuLu 2 years, 5 months ago

Oh, and thank you, Mr. Sumner, for reporting on this. I had been curious about the original complaint since this first happened.

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whattheheck 2 years, 5 months ago

I would say Lewis went to the wrong address.

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FlunkyMonkey 2 years, 5 months ago

Before Ruth Lewis is allowed to respond to any more code violations, SHE NEEDS TO GET HER BLOODY EYES CHECKED and learn to read the complaint form.

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tocar 2 years, 5 months ago

Move on the the next code violation. If you don't have something good to say about what our flag represents, then do not talk about it. Unfortunately some of the people that are employed by our city are of the same mentality of Ms. Lewis.

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Jacob 2 years, 5 months ago

"If you don't have something good to say about what our flag represents, then do not talk about it"

The irony of your position is perfect. .

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rock 2 years, 5 months ago

This is a good forum, but the better one is to go on line to the city of albanys website, there you will find the mayors office web address and inundate her office with emails, calls and letters. I did it yesterday and asked if they cannot resolve this issue then her and retired Marine Colonel Taylor should step down. They are public figures and can be voted out, a recall requested and WE THE PEOPLE of The UNITED STATES can show these people we mean business when you f&** with our colors.

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KaosinAlbany 2 years, 5 months ago

Uh... Ms. Lewis and James Taylor where hired by the city. They were not voted in.

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rock 2 years, 5 months ago

the mayor was...She is responsible for every action good and bad in the city.

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KaosinAlbany 2 years, 5 months ago

Try writing your commissioner also. They really run the show.

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KaosinAlbany 2 years, 5 months ago

...and sorry, I thought when you said her you were referring to Ms. Lewis and not the Mayor.

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GMoney38 2 years, 5 months ago

Thank you J.D. for this article. The City has never had an issue with Tom's flag in the same spot for 30 years. The City is wrong.

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agirl_25 2 years, 5 months ago

The furor is all because the lady did NOT even read the complaint and know WHY she was at the business? Am I to understand all this got started because of her INCOMPETENCE? Now I guess my next question is.......who is she related to? She has to be related to someone to have gotten the job.

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Outtahere 2 years, 5 months ago

Not only incompentence, but it was also stated she had a nasty additude to boot! There are WAY to many city workers that have NASTY additudes. Don't even get me started on the lack of professionalism and customer service down town!!!!

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buddy 2 years, 5 months ago

Other than the city leaders in Albany are to ignorant to govern a monopoly game the real issue with this is the sign ordinance is anti-business. It is a great example of how laws/ordinances are passed, but no one really knows how to understand it well enough to enforce it on top of the fact that it ends up being twisted to encompass whatever the city decides the issue at hand is. As long as backwards people run around the city with cameras snapping pictures to complain about the more businesses are going to relocate to Lee County or not locate here at all. Call any metropolitan business area and talk to them about the sign ordinance here and they are in awe that it is so strict and wonder how businesses survive here.

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Moe 2 years, 5 months ago

What is the matter with this sign? Why can't small merchants advertise? Isn't it bad enough that they have to struggle with a terrible economy and huge national competitors such as Wal-Mart and Target?

The two realities are these: First, this is a sign ordinance that NO ONE wanted except a bunch of unelected country-club cranks such as Judy Bowles and the other KADB derelicts. These people do not work for a living and have absolutely NO qualifications to impose ordinances or regulations on people who have to struggle day in and day out to survive in the competitive private sector so they can pay taxes to support this city.

Second, the quality of person working for code enforcement is a disgrace. These people are so lacking in basic intellect that they believe their job is to harrass honest businesses and collect a paycheck. Not long ago, one of Albany's Code Enforcement inspectors was arrested for soliciting sex from other men during work hours while fraudulently filling out his own time sheets. This leads to the obvious question of what kind of leadership actually runs Code Enforcement. Finally, long-time followers of this issue will recall all the sanctimony that was used to justify how Code Enforcement "needed" to carry firearms. The reality is that these people are nothing but bullies and thugs. Does Tom Gieryic really pose a threat to anyone in his own place of business? As a citizen, do you really feel comfortable with someone of Ruth Lewis' intellect carrying a firearm?

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Cartman 2 years, 5 months ago

Simple & Effective Solution = Repeal the Sign Ordinance in its entirety. We simply don't need it. Let businesses express themselves. If they are in bad taste - the market will decide. The Sign Ordinance is one example of how a group of people, many of whom do not own or manage a business, dictate to those who do. Repeal it. Tell KADB to shove it. Repeal it.

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Moe 2 years, 5 months ago

I agree. You would think one, just one, of our city commissioners would have the character to suggest repeal.

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whattheheck 2 years, 5 months ago

The result of too much government. Who was it that said government does not create jobs? We seem to have created too many that aren't too necessary.

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agirl_25 2 years, 5 months ago

It may be nice if some of these people who are in public positions had some simple lessons in civics ........we had them in school in 7th grade. It was very basic. I am sure someone would be more than happy to volunteer to teach a basic course, don't you? Maybe then the buffoons who are these positions would have the basics but then again they may think I am talking about a Honda Civic.....sigh. So here goes.....technically civics is the study of good citizenship. It is the promotion and education on how to be more active responsible people in a community. It is also the study of the rights and obligations people have to each other as a community, county, state, or nation. Now does that make it easy for you. For those of you who have let a bit of power go to your head, get down off the high horse you are on and start working for the good or the community.

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LuLu 2 years, 5 months ago

This made Fox News, Fox Nation AND the Blaze today!

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